Whoa–sorry! Lost my train of thought there. Anyway, Bad Boys for Life feels like a cinematic clip show. Yeah, yeah–it’s all new footage, but they might as well have copied and pasted from earlier installments: Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) are still mismatched cops. The movie kicks off with their same. old. schtick. Mike drives like a bat outta hell, while Marcus frets and fumes in the passenger seat. Later, the filmmakers flog the same dramatic beats, as family man Marcus tries to lasso daredevil Mike down to earth. Here’s a good general guideline: If you’ve nagged somebody for a quarter century to change and they haven’t done it yet, it’s probably best to throw in the sponge and hit the showers.
Settle in, ’cause we ain’t anywhere near done dissecting this dead horse. The clichés just keep on coming, like frothy waves battering a clipper ship: Joe Pantoliano pops back up, as the histrionic, Pepto-swilling police captain. His role in all these movies is to stomp into every scene, scold the bad boys for breaking all the rules again, and then send them back out to do it again. Jesus, I thought this type of character was stale when Steve Kahan was riding Riggs and Murtaugh back in Lethal Weapon.
But wait–there’s more: We also get lovely Rita (Paola Nuñez), the One Who Got Away for Mike. And the Villain Out for Burning Vengeance (Kate del Castillo), the Young Killer With Vague Motives (Jacob Scipio), and the Cocky Punk Who Dares to Buck Up to Our Heroes (Charles Melton). TL;DR: There isn’t a character in this movie you won’t see coming a mile away.
Which, ironically, brings me to Bad Boys for Life‘s only strength. Occasionally, the filmmakers take a step back to acknowledge the film’s goofiness. Mike and Marcus are older and slower, and their police tactics practically have mold growing all over them. The script isn’t shy about referencing the passage of time and making fun of these characters when they can’t do the same. It’s a refreshing dose of self-awareness in an otherwise plodding movie.
Let’s close this here shindig with a rhetorical question. (I don’t know why I’m writing this review with Sam Elliot’s speaking voice, but–) Why don’t we have movie clip shows? Picture it: Mike and Marcus, sitting around a fire pit, roasting wieners and laughing about that thing they did at the one place that time. “From now on, that’s how you drive!!!” Hee hee! Sigh. Good times. I’d honestly rather watch that than anything in Bad Boys for Life. Sure, clip shows are cheap and tacky, but at least they’re honest about it.
124 min. R.